The last two to three weeks haven’t been the best in Hong Kong, to be honest. Exam season is upon us, and I have spent a large amount of time in the library (by my standards). I am convinced that having an exam and essay due on 22nd December should be made illegal, and every day the library gets quieter as more people finish for the holidays.
That being said, studying in another country and my grades not counting has meant that being able to explore different aspects of my course I definitely would not have done back in Durham. To give a flavour, my essay titles have included, “an exploration of game theory in the novels of Jane Austen”, “identity and psychoanalysis in apartheid South African literature” and “the success of Zhuangzi (Pronounced Chuang-zu) in Chinese Ethics”.
Before the exam period started, I was really quite enjoying life in Hong Kong. Here a few highlights
As I mentioned in my last blog, one of the hidden highlights of Hong Kong is the sheer level of the countryside. Over 80% of Hong Kong is a national park. (Sidenote, given the INSANE level of rents and population density in the urban areas, I wonder if there is a case for building on some of this parkland)
With this in mind, I decided to hike the famous 50-kilometre “Hong Kong” trail in an event run by the university. Over 400 students (with a 25% drop out rate) took part in the event. Having signed up very late, I was placed with 3 very nice Chinese postgraduates. It took us 12 and half hours, we finished in pitch black, and there were some spectacular views.
The next day, with some fairly sore legs, I went to the final day of Hong Kong’s marquee music festival, Clockenflap (I wonder who came up with this name). The festival included acts such as Stormzy, Massive Attack and Prodigy.
Sincere apologies to Massive Attack, but the best part of the festival wasn’t the music but the setting. It was right in the heart of Hong Kong with massive skyscrapers all around and it was a lovely evening with friends.
You may have seen the title of this blog and wondered what it had to do with Hong Kong. Let me regale you, dear reader, with the greatest underdog story since Leicester City won the premier league.
The dragon boat season finishes in November. However, the beginner group were invited to compete in the final competition of the season and get a taste of a competitive atmosphere (cue drumroll)
Representing the Under 23 Men’s team we did well enough in both our heats and made it through to the grand final. (Sidenote, despite being only 20, they didn’t initially believe that I was under the age of 23, I think I should start moisturising). We found that competitive racing is very different to the traditional training, using carbon fibre paddles instead of wooden ones and going at a much faster stroke rate than we were used to
We made it to the grand final. The crowd was hushed. Hearts pounded. Arms tensed.
The claxon sounded. The drums pounded. Shouts rose from the sideline.
We finished neck and neck with the second place team in quite possibly the most controversial and closest photo finish (this may be an exaggeration) since Michael Phelps and Milorad Cavic tied for gold in the 2008 Summer Olympics (first place went to the U23 national team).
In the famous words of DJ Khaled, We “celebrated our successes” with a barbecue in the rain afterwards and returned home.
In all seriousness, it wasn’t an especially impressive achievement (I think now is probably a good time to mention they were only four teams in our category and the heats were basically warm-ups). Despite this, we were given a ridiculously ostentatious trophy. We got very excited until we were told that massive trophies are commonplace at most competitions and the club have so many they don’t know what to do with them. As my exchange buddy and I are only here for the semester/year respectively, we were allowed to take it home with us and it currently resides on top of my fridge.
However, I’m very very excited to compete for HKU when the season starts in April again. There are competitions all over Asia and the highlight will be the University Championship, where HKU are defending champions. The only sad part is that I had to say goodbye to my two my fellow exchange students who are here only for the semester. The “dragon boat boys” are sadly no more.